It’s common to hear advice to Christian parents encouraging them to want more for their children than “just happiness.” While I believe such advice is meant well, we need to address the concept of happiness carefully when it comes to our kids.
Yes, children frequently want to stay up late, eat cookies before bed, play video games for hours, and avoid their homework, imagining those things will bring them happiness. But wise parents know better. They, too, want their children to be happy—the difference is, parents know what will keep children happy in the long run.
Because they sometimes need to tell their children “no,” it might seem like their children’s happiness isn’t something that conscientious parents should concern themselves with. But there is a right kind of happiness and joy we should want for children and grandchildren: one that is Christ-honoring and God-centered.
Our Children Will Long for Happiness.
God built a desire for happiness into our children, just like it’s built into every person who ever has or ever will live. The important question is, where will they seek that happiness? Will they look for it in Christ and in living a life rooted in Him, or will they seek it in the world and its endless empty mirages?
Any parent who tries to make their child repent of being motivated by happiness is fighting a losing battle. Distancing happiness from the gospel sends a false and damaging message.
Yes, we want our children to experience happiness—the happiness that comes from knowing and following Christ and living a life that is pleasing to Him. Teaching them that they will experience difficulties and suffering, and can also experience a deep, God-given happiness despite (and sometimes because of) those challenges, can strengthen their faith and fill them with purpose.
We’ve all observed parents who say, “I just want my children to be happy,” which means they will give their children whatever they want or allow them to pursue anything they feel will bring them gratification, even if it’s contrary to God’s word.
This is not the kind of happiness I’m speaking of. Such parents should actually want more for their children—such as to love God, and therefore be respectful, virtuous, and generous. “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him” (Proverbs 23:24).